When it comes to the repair of a water supply pipe shared with a neighbour or between multiple properties, confusion and complication often reigns.
Finding consensus on a common way to deal with problems with such pipelines can be difficult. And that is presuming everyone whose homes are supplied by the shared pipe understands their responsibility for it.
What happens if there is a leak? How can you get it repaired? And what if no way forward can be agreed with a neighbour about to how to fix a shared water supply pipe?
What is a shared water supply?
There are two main ways homes in the United Kingdom connect to the public water network. Some will have their own supply pipe connecting with the mains outside the property, carrying water to their property and their property alone.
This keeps things nice and simple; the property is responsible for the repair of their pipe from the point it leaves their home to where it meets the public water network at the stop tap.
In contrast, a shared water supply pipe runs from the mains and into multiple properties. Shared supply is most commonly found with terraced housed from the Victorian era and semi-detached properties built before 1940. The pipe will often run along the back of a row of houses, feeding each one individually.
Council houses, blocks of flats and caravan parks will sometimes have a shared supply. One large pipeline connects to the public network outside the estate before running water to every property through a series of individual pipes, known as branch pipes.
Who is responsible for a shared water supply pipe?
Responsibility for water pipes is pretty simple. Any leaks or bursts on the public water network must be attended to by the relevant water company.
Any leaks or bursts beyond the public water network are down to the property owner to repair. When it comes to a shared supply, that means every house connected to the pipe shares responsibility for it.
Problems with shared water supply
Responding to leaks, bursts and general maintenance requirements are one of the major problems with shared water supply. We will look at that in more detail in a minute.
Another issue with shared supply is pressure and flow. At busy times of day when multiple properties are all attempting to draw water from the mains at the same time, shared supply pipes can struggle to cope with demand.
This is especially true with older, degraded pipes or those which are leaking. If every home on the shared supply is suffering from the same issues, then it is worth talking to neighbours to see if a uniform solution such as replacing the pipe can be found. Easier said than done, of course…
Repairing a shared water supply pipe
Whilst the responsibility for shared water supply is clearly laid out, finding a means to fix and maintain pipes on the system is far less straightforward.
Each home will have their own thoughts on the best approach based on factors including the condition of the line near their property and their financial situation.
Whilst full replacement is usually the desirable outcome, it is rare that consensus for such a costly undertaking can be reached.
A good example of the complications involved comes from a row of eight cottages in London built in the middle of the 19th century.
All eight properties were connected to the public water network by a shared supply pipe. The pipe ran along the back wall of the cottages for nearly 50 metres, attached at a height of three metres.
Poorly installed insulation had enabled water and moisture to become trapped between the lagging and steel of the pipe, leading to heavy corrosion.
Freezing winter weather in turn led to water expanding inside the pipe, placing pressure which the weakened steel could not cope with. The line subsequently burst in places.
The cottages were quoted £22,000 to replace the shared water supply pipe. Some of those did not want to contribute £2,750 towards the cost, and so no common ground could be found for a solution.
Instead, individual property owners used the Sylmasta Pipe Refurbishment System to strengthen the six metre sections of pipe directly outside their cottage.
Superfast Aqua PW Epoxy Putty was used to seal holes and cracks. Aqua PW has WRAS approval, meaning it is certified as safe to use on pipes and fittings carrying drinking water.
Liquid Metal Epoxy Coating was next painted onto the line to create a new, hard-wearing metallic surface around the pipe.
This encased and reinforced the brittle metalwork and acted as a protective barrier against future external corrosion.
SylWrap HD Pipe Repair Bandages were then used to further protect the line. Building up a thickness of four layers encompassed the pipe in a rock-hard, impact resistant protective shell.
Four cottages in total used this repair method and could go into the following winter safe in the knowledge that the shared supply pipe outside their properties would not become further weakened or end up bursting.
The other four cottages could in time use the Sylmasta Pipe Refurbishment System to attend to their own sections in a much more cost-effective and convenient manner than full replacement.
Bypassing a shared water supply pipe
In some cases, it may be possible to bypass a shared water supply and connect a property directly to the public water network by installing a new private pipe.
A specialist pipe installation company would introduce a new line from the property boundary to the point of entry. They then issue a water regulation certificate.
The water company responsible for the public network will connect the new pipe to their mains, after which the property is disconnected from the shared supply line.
Undertaking such a procedure can be costly, with each individual case different depending on a whole host of factors.
But if a property owner has endured enough low water pressure or problems with their neighbour regarding what to do about a shared supply pipe, the cost can often justify the means.